An Introduction to Cells


'You are… a people belonging to God, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.' (1 Peter 2:9)

'God raised us up… in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.' (Ephesians 2:6,7)

God has poured out his love on us, sending Jesus to live and die for us and to rise again as our Saviour and Lord. We do not deserve such love; yet he has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light, forgiven us, given us new life, and counted us as his beloved children with access to him at any time. The word for that undeserved love is ‘Grace’.

The church is the people of God. (It is not a building, nor even just an organisation.) The distinguishing mark of the church is grace - undeserved love. We are people who know God’s grace - and respond to it. God's love for us moves us to follow Jesus, and make love our aim - love for God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), love for our neighbour, and love for one another - regardless of whether it is deserved or not. This is what God wants most of all.

Christians are therefore people with a purpose. Ultimately, God's purpose is for us to be demonstrations of his grace. Our changed lives, the way in which we now worship God, the things we do and say in daily life, exhibit to the world the effect of God's grace on us and how marvellous it is. But it is not enough simply to be demonstrations. Jesus said, 'As the Father sent me, I am sending you.' (John 20:21) Our purpose on earth is not only to exhibit God's grace, but to bring that grace to others so that they too may experience God's love and be drawn to him through Jesus. Our love for God and for our neighbour involves action. We share Christ's mission, and we share it with each other.

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We fulfil God's purposes simply by obeying the commands to follow Jesus, to love God, to love our neighbour, to love one another, and to go and make disciples. We cannot obey them as isolated individuals; we need the help and encouragement of others. Nor can large meetings or services provide all the help we need; they may inspire us or challenge us, but cannot provide practical support and personal encouragement. However, all these commands can be fulfilled by small groups of Christians, if they develop a community life in which they learn together to receive God's grace and to share it with a needy world. That is what cell churches are all about. (They are called 'cell' churches because cells are the basic building blocks of all living organisms; as cells grow and multiply, so the organism grows. The name is unimportant; what matters is their function.)

Each cell aims to be a new testament style community:
a group of followers of Jesus Christ who rejoice in his new life and are learning to love God, love their neighbours, love one another, and help others follow Jesus.

Cells cannot do everything. We need larger congregations for inspirational worship and teaching. We need specialized groups to fulfil particular tasks. But we can only fulfil God's purposes by obeying all Christ commanded us - and for that we need the sort of community life a cell can provide.

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'We do what we value and value what we do.' If we say something is important, but do nothing about it, that shows that it is not in fact one of our values.

Many cell churches talk about five particular values:


Every member growing (see 1 below)


Jesus at the centre (see 3 & 8 below)


Every member in ministry (see 11 below)


Building a community marked by openness and sacrificial love (see 12 & 13 below)


Doing evangelism, not just talking about it (see 14 below)

The following is an expanded set of values:

1) Spiritual growth. We aim to become as Christ-like as possible. However, we are all on a journey; no-one has arrived. We recognise we need to learn from each other and to help one another to put God's teaching into practice in our different circumstances.
2) Developing servant leadership. As we become more like Jesus, we become examples for others to follow. However, we value those leaders who lead by their self-less service of others - see Matthew 20:25-28. In cell groups, he leader may not be the one with the most knowledge; it is more important for the leader to be an enabler and a community builder than a teacher.

3) Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We value each Person of the Trinity. We aim to live every part of our lives for Jesus, in union with him, by the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.
4) Cells. We value cells as fundamental to our spiritual life and service together, and believe they strengthen every aspect of church life. We therefore make our cell groups our priority, pruning other programmes if necessary.
5) Christian Unity. We value congregational worship and activity, and see the need for Christians of all varieties to express their unity in work, worship and witness.
6) Prayer and Bible Study. We realize that we can accomplish nothing without prayer and that every aspect of the group's life needs to be bathed in prayer. We value the Bible as God's revelation for us today.
7) Worship and Sacraments. We value worship of many varieties, and the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
8) Expectancy. We expect God to keep his promises, to answer prayers, and to meet with us in our cell groups.

9) Daily life. We value the tasks and events of daily life as God-given, through which we serve him and his world.
10) The world. God loves the world, and we too value our environment, local community and other networks, and value involvement in activities that demonstrate concern for the world around us, for justice and for peace and wholeness.
11) Every member ministry. Every member has a ministry in 'the market place' - being 'salt and light' in their places of work, schools, homes, community. Every member has a ministry helping to make disciples - each has a network of unchurched friends and relatives whom the cell is seeking to bring to Christ. Every member has a ministry within the group - enabling every other member to fulfil God's purposes. (Some may also have ministries within the wider church.)

12) New Testament style community life (see Acts 2:42-47), marked especially by sacrificial love for one another. Gathering together is only useful if it builds the loving relationships which are vital for growth and for witness. We accept that many people need to belong before they can believe, and that the witness of a loving Christian community is very important. Children and young people participate fully in cell church life.
13) Openness. We seek to create an atmosphere where it is not necessary to pretend, confidences are kept, and we are free to ask awkward questions of each other. We see the need for one-to-one support, with a sense of being accountabe to one another as we aim to fulfil God's purposes together (see 1 John 1:5-7). No-one is required to 'bare his/her soul’, however - we respect each other’s privacy.

14) Evangelism. We see that members of Christ's Body share Christ's mission to the world. We therefore structure cell life so that evangelism - sharing the good news about Christ - is a natural part of it (see the next value).
15) Multiplication. Each group seeks to grow in number as its members make disciples and as other Christians join them. Nevertheless each group remains small - small enough for everyone to know one another, and small enough to fit into someone's home (usually 10-15 members). When a group has enough members it forms two new groups. Leaders for the new groups are identified and trained before the time when they are needed. We value the prayerful setting of a target date for a cell to multiply.

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Structures put values into effect. Our cell church structures are:

1) The Cell Meeting. It is not what happens in the meetings that are important, it is what the meetings enable to happen outside. The structure is usually based around the 'Four Ws' - Welcome, Worship, Word and Witness. Different cell members - including children if present - may lead any or all of the sections. Some cells vary the order of the sections. It is helpful to think of each as containing reflection, activity and response:

Welcome: getting to know one another. It usually includes chat about the past week (reflection), an 'ice-breaker' question to get people talking (activity); and it may include prayer or ministry if appropriate (response). It may include a meal or a cup of tea.

Worship: focusing on God, celebrating what he has done and is doing. We do not attempt to imitate congregational worship, but we use material appropriate for small groups.

Word: connecting the Bible to everyday life and helping one another to put it into practice. Reflection on what was learnt last week is important. The activity is teaching and application: finding out what God is saying, and what difference that makes. In many cell churches the subject is the teaching of the previous Sunday sermons, but the group may need to look at some other issue. If members of the group have not all heard the same teaching previously, there would need to be some teaching within this section through a tape or video, Bible study, or from someone with a gift of teaching. Always the important thing is how the teaching works out in practice. Afterwards, the response may be prayer and/or ministry.

Witness: focusing outside the group, thinking especially about the commands to love our neighbours and to make disciples. We reflect on what we've done in the past and try to learn from it, and for our activity we plan for the future or share one another's plans for individual witness and our progress or lack of it. We respond in prayer.

In some cells children are encouraged to stay in the meeting all the time, in others the cell members take it in turns to give them their own teaching in another room. (In others the cell members are all young people.)

2) Partnerships. Each cell church tries to organize its members into twos or threes who will meet to encourage one another (see 3 below) and to share prayer needs.

3) Individual learning. Each member is helped to find ways of nurturing their spiritual lives on a daily basis, and to share how they are getting on with a cell partner (see 2 above).

4) Social events. Each cell is encouraged to have events to which partners or friends can be invited, purely for social purposes to build relationships. Members are also encouraged to socialize informally to build up their community life.

5) Projects. A cell group may decide to work together on a project, either for evangelism (such as running an Alpha course) or for some aspect of social concern.

6) Congregational Worship. All cell church members are encouraged to be committed to a local congregation, for their own benefit and for opportunities to serve and to witness.

7) Leadership Training and Co-ordination. Isolated cells can die, or can go wrong. Leaders need to receive constant training and support, and they need to network with each other. Cell church support meetings may include worship, envisioning, training, and meeting in smaller groups for sharing and prayer with each other.

'As the Father sent me, I am sending you.' (John 20:21)

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The Purpose of the Church


Cell churches - fulfilling God’s purposes


Cell Church values


Cell church structures

The Big Idea | An Introduction to cells | Cells in rural ministry
Ideas for meetings | Welcome | Worship | Word | Witness
Ideas for equipping | home study resources | course materials | Encounter weekend
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